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The list of things we can do virtually keeps getting longer and longer. Now we can add to that list shopping for a home and even applying for a mortgage. Technology has revolutionized the real estate industry. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), throughout the coronavirus pandemic, one in every 20 homebuyers purchased a house sight-unseen. Jessica Lautz, VP of Demographics and Behavioral Insights at the NAR says: People really didn’t buy houses sight-unseen, traditionally. It’s still not a huge number, but it has gone up, and we have definitely seen that trend accelerate.”

To start the process, you can browse online for homes for sale. With apps like Homefinder, Zillow, Homes, Redfin, and Multiple Listing Service, you can see almost everything in and around a home for sale anywhere in the country, without ever being there. Some of these apps and real estate agencies will conduct live video-chat tours with an agent in the home and you sitting on your couch. Even if you are buying a home in your area and will eventually be able to take an in-home tour, there are other reasons to begin looking virtually.


Virtual technology helps homebuyers safely narrow down their top choices, without unnecessarily walking into more homes than they need to see or are really interested in seeing. Technologies in addition to the online listings include Facetime, Google Duo, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp and 3-D virtual walkthrough tours. Some apps even include a “dollhouse” view that allows you to see the floorplan and everything inside at the same time.


You have the convenience of shopping for a home at any time without having to schedule an appointment. You can tour a property at your own pace and look for the features that matter most to you. If you are relocating, digital shopping tools let you tour the home without traveling to see it.


You can look at more houses in a shorter period of time. Virtual tours allow you to see double the properties in the same number of hours or days. You can even go back and look at the house again, without disturbing the current owner. If the seller doesn’t offer a virtual tour, have your agent do one for you. The seller may be more comfortable allowing one agent to come in than a group of people. Your agent, masked and gloved, can take a video for you or Facetime with you while you tour the home.


You can put safety first when touring. Especially during the pandemic, you want to safeguard your own health, and you want the sellers to appreciate that you safeguard theirs, as well. You don’t have to be in the home or touch anything. During a Facetime tour, the agent, masked, gloved and using hand sanitizer can open all the doors, cabinets, and closets so you don’t have to touch anything.


Things to look for when doing a video-chat tour:

Because you won’t physically be in the home while touring it, your agent will be your greatest resource. Not only will they give their opinion about the property – pointing out unique characteristics and highlighting flaws – but they will also test different home features you may be concerned about.

Here are a few things to ask your agent to do during a live video-chat tour:

  • Test the light switches
  • Point out under-the-radar features, like windows that are painted shut
  • Listen for noise levels inside and outside of the home
  • Measure rooms, entryways, closets, etc.
  • Flush the toilets
  • Test the water pressure
  • Smell for any odors
  • Explain where rooms/features are in relation to one another
  • Share characteristics about the neighborhood and the distance between neighboring homes

Additional technology:

While you’re online, use Google Earth to see the house, yard and surrounding area from the air. You can also research and view shopping areas, schools and parks, public transit, biking trails and sidewalks. If you find a home with the right floorplan but know you will want to make some updates, there are apps that allow you to visualize new carpet, paint, wallpaper and tile in specific rooms of the house.


The possible in-person tour:

Pandemic or not, you should try to do an in-person tour of any home you’re considering buying, unless it’s impossible to travel the long distance to get there. No matter how good the quality of a video virtual tour, it won’t be quite the same as being in your potential future home for real.


Because of COVID-19, there are some new rules about touring homes in person. Open houses may no longer exist in your area. Every seller has different requirements. Many will ask you to leave shoes outside and wear a mask and gloves. Others may request you don’t touch anything. Some may leave all the lights on to make it unnecessary for potential buyers to touch switches. You agent will let you know any particular safety requests from the seller.


Apply for a mortgage, digitally:

You’re tech savvy and you’ve found your dream home by shopping for homes online and taking virtual tours. You’re ready to make an offer on the home, but you’re not sure if you’ll qualify for financing. So what’s the next step?

Get pre-approved in just a few minutes with the Citywide Digital Mortgage app. Simply click the “Apply Now” button on your loan officer’s web page, or contact your local Citywide loan officer and ask them to send you a direct link to the app. After you’ve applied on your smartphone, tablet or computer, your loan officer can quickly quote you an interest rate, estimate your monthly payments, and provide you with financing options. Citywide makes it simple for you to apply for a home loan and quickly get pre-approved so you can make an offer with confidence.


Benefits of the Citywide Digital Mortgage app:

  • Digital Mortgage is completely secure, only you will know your login credentials
  • Take photos of your documents (paystubs & W-2’s for example) and easily upload
  • Chat with your loan officer and share a screen to go over the details of your loan
  • Take action and close quickly with your own personalized “To-Do” list
  • E-Sign primary disclosures to expedite the process
  • Receive closing documents for review

Citywide Home Loans makes it easy to stay in touch with your loan officer and helps expedite the home loan process while keeping you informed at each step. Try the Digital Mortgage app and you’ll understand how we make the loan process simple.


Before you start this grand home-buying adventure, find a real estate agent who comes highly recommended and who will partner with Citywide Loans to make both the looking and the buying processes as virtual and as easy as possible.